(photo by Brandon Wise)

SM PIER — The search is on to find a new leader for the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp., the organization that oversees the 101-year-old coastal landmark.

Current PRC Executive Director Ben Franz-Knight is leaving the job Oct. 8 to take a position heading Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market after a 7-year stint as the top man at the pier.

The PRC’s board, meanwhile, has hired Steve Gibson, president of Long Beach-based Urban Place Consulting Group, to fill in while it conducts a nationwide search for a permanent director during the next four to six months. Gibson, whose consulting firm focuses on establishing and managing business districts throughout the country, is not a candidate for the long-term position.

Gibson will earn $5,000 per month to work 20 to 25 hours per week overseeing the pier under a contract signed this week.

The board has hired the firm DHR International to conduct a search for the next executive director at a cost of $35,000, said PRC Board Chairman Kent Smith.

The board decided to appoint an interim director in order to spend adequate time on the executive search, Smith said.

“We wanted to take the time that we thought was required to do a thorough search to get the best possible candidate,” he said. “We all know it’s going to be a challenge to replace [Franz-Knight].”

The probable salary range for a PRC executive director is $90,000 to $110,000, he added.

For his part, Gibson said he’s looking forward to his time with the PRC.

“It has similarities to the work I already do, but it also has things that are unique and different,” he said of the pier.


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